Friday, December 24, 2010

"Like a kid at Christmas"

It's what we want out of Christmas - it's the "wow" factor we're aiming for with our gifts and decorating. "Like a kid at Christmas" is that look on a face of anticipation and joy and incredulousness and wonder all wrapped up in one gigantic smile and wide-open eyes.

My kids are older now so I'd forgotten how intoxicating that look can be until I was at a Cub Scout Christmas party. Santa had come and was handing out gifts to the children. There were two little girls there, siblings, and when Santa walked in you'd think they were about to explode with happiness. They looked at him, and each other, and then back at him with smiles that practically wrapped around their little heads. There were no words to describe how they were feeling and still hardly sufficient words to communicate how they looked.
It was pure magic. This was undoubtedly the highlight of their day or, from the looks of it, their lives!

For me however this party was just another box to be checked off the Christmas list of things to do.

"Next!"

I will keep checking off boxes until it is the evening of the 25th and then I'll start a new list of  year end stuff which will flow right into the list of new year resolutions and responsibilities and long term planning. Things are too busy to just stand around and be wide-eyed with adoration!

But what if, even if just for a few moments I could experience the joy of a kid at Christmas?

Can I, amid all the hustle take a moment to get lost  in a carol? To hear the story as if not for the thousandth time and to stand in sheer incredulousness and pure incomprehensible bliss that God came for me?

Can I realize that the greatest gift isn't wrapped in the fanciest ribbons and paper but instead is Almighty God wrapping Himself in skin?

He came so that He could forever be my high priest who is familiar with all that is familiar to me.
He wept.
He was tired.
He was surrounded by people needing him to do things for them.
He had boxes to check off until he reached his final objective - giving Himself as payment for my sin so that He could then turn around and offer to wrap me in robes of his righteousness.

He wore my skin so that I could be covered by His goodness.

This is the gift that is held out to me, and to us, and to all the world.

May God grant us one thing more this season; the ability to be still and accept this gift of Himself with the wide-eyed adoration it inspires and deserves...

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord!" Luke 2

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Oh there's no place like home for the holidays"

Here, at home, the holidays don't look the same as they years ago; the number at the table is fewer, the pile of gifts under the tree smaller.

The loss of loved ones keeps it from being "the most wonderful time of the year" until I ponder that "better is one day in Your court than a thousand elsewhere" (Psalms 84:10 NIV).

They are home for the holidays, not in our homes, but in God's presence.

The same God who has welcomed them home will also provide grace for our every need and will someday wipe all tears from our eyes as well.

So, to you specifically this season, may God gift you with peace.

Isotoner (g)love

I live on the cheap side of life.
Not necessarily frugal as that implies thoughtful comparison of price to quality, I'm just cheap. Why pay $10 when you can get something "just as good" for $2?

Of course a low price can mean cheap goods like the many pairs of stretchy knit "magic" gloves that are in singles throughout my house. I pulled a pair on and discovered holes between 3 of the 5 fingers - and these were the new ones! Highly ineffective in single degree temperatures!

But as I was doing Christmas shopping I saw them, and I bought them, a pair of isotoner gloves. They slid onto my hands seamlessly and snugly cocooned them in sleek warmth. It's hard to believe that what I had been wearing and what I wore now could both be considered gloves!

Christmas is a season of loving. We endeavor through our gift giving to communicate that we love someone I mean seriously, what else would have someone out in the stores at this time of year?! This is the time that we say "When I saw this I thought of how much joy it would bring you and I want you to be happy because I care about you."

But no matter how extravagant my gifts are they are like stretchy knit gloves compared to the love shown by the manager. For in the manager God sends a message; He gave us Himself so that we could experience the joy of His presence both in our lives now and forever.

This love was not cheap but of the highest quality and price. It is the love of the God of the universe offering to adopt us as his own children and thereby taking on Himself the responsibility for all our care both now and always.

This, this is how loves looks and feels. This is love that fits snugly around our hearts and keeps us safe and warm.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The longest night and Christmas lights

I don't know all that transpired so that we celebrate Christmas in December, but it does strike me how highly appropriate it is that, at this time of the year when there is more darkness than light, this is when we celebrate the coming of The Light of the World...

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. ...

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: ...

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - (John 1:1-9, 12, 14 NKJV)

One of the beauties of the Christmas season is driving through the neighborhood and seeing all the lights. Some homes have only their lite tree in the window while others are so bright they make the electric company very happy!

But from single tree to a million twinkling lights any light helps in the darkness. We are like Christmas lights in our world - little reflectors of the presence of the Light of the World in our lives. We bear witness to the Light just as John did, everywhere we go. While a body of believers maybe able to shine as brightly as the best decorated house on the block; a single strand of lights still pushes back the darkness. A simple strand here and a lite tree there; together they light up the neighborhood.

Your witness, however small, bears witness to the Light. Your faithfulness to God combined with the words or another and the actions of a third may join together to light a path bright enough for one to find their way to the Christ child this season. It's a tough time of year. Stress is high all around. Streets and stores are crowded. People are busy, some frantic to get it all done before the "big day".  Let the testimony of your life as you move through today be as a light to hearts that desperately need it.






Friday, December 17, 2010

Potential

I've have this amazing ball of yarn - it's soft and warm and has this fantastic coloring.

It is simply a ball of potential!

In my hands this yarn will become a scarf. Those are the tools I have and that is the knowledge I possess. But in the hands of someone else, with different tools and other ideas, it could become a garment of warmth, or a thing of great beauty. An artist would look at this yarn and see possibilities I'd never imagine. An expert in yarn craft could construct an item I'd never considered.

The ball of yarn remains the same - with its particular mix of characteristics - but its potential outcome is all dependent on in whose hands it lies...

We all are a mix of experiences, personalities, temperaments, and talents.

We are all lives full of potential..

So the question is what to do with them? How to craft who we are with what we have into a significant contribution and lasting legacy?

My hands are not that talented or capable, merely adequate.

What if I put this into the hands of an artist? A creator? An expert?

What if I took this life of mine and placed it in God’s hands thereby granting Him permission to do whatever He desired with me? and how? and when?

Would He drop the ball?
Would He make a scarf?
Or would He, who actually spun this yarn to be just the way that it is, work with it, as only one can who is intimately familiar with its characteristics, until it is what He’d envisioned it would be all along?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Satisfaction (as in "I can't get no...")

I have vivid memories of the Christmas catalog from when I was a child.
 Do you as well? Every year one would come in the mail and
my sister and I would lay on the floor and turn it page by page and make our lists of what we wanted - or sometimes we'd just circle the stuff. Yep, as you guessed it, sometimes we'd have to go get a fresh pen as ours was, suddenly, surprisingly, out of ink! These were the things I wanted to make my Christmas happy - and of course to make me the first kid on the block to have the latest and greatest thingamabob!

Times have changed. One year my son "cut and pasted" off the Toys R Us website what he wanted into a Word document. The ads now come in the Sunday paper and in the sidebars of every other webpage. According to the Chicago Tribune from Dec. 5th preteens most wished for item this year is an IPad; while the children over 13 most desired a computer.  I'm thinking the 1975 $2.77 Malibu Barbie featured here wouldn't exactly give them what they're wanting...?

We want stuff - I, for over a year now, have coveted a kitchen appliance (I know, what a geek right?!) I have priced this machine a million times with a thousand coupons at a half dozen stores just waiting for it to be within the realm of rationalization! Today is it! Today I am getting my long sought for coffee maker and then I will be happy for the rest of my entire life! I will desire nothing ever again!! Wait, did I just see an ad for that new rotating waffle iron... 

We want stuff but what we really want is satisfaction and we think that if we get "xyz" we'll be satisfied, fulfilled, happy - until of course "xyz 2.0" is released...

Why? Why aren't we happy once we get something? Why doesn't the $2.77 Barbie I got in 1975 fulfill all my desires?

There are several reasons - including the materialistic environment in which we live and the skill of marketers in breeding desire. But another reason is less about us as consumers but as people; we're not satisfied forever because we're constantly changing.  Our lives change. Our situations change and with those changes come new things we desire for satisfaction - and I'm not talking about stuff now. I have friends who the wife was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor this spring; the desires of their entire family have changed now from whatever they were to getting good reports from the treatments.  To one who has lost a job, satisfaction is now having a place to go to work. For one without transportation, satisfaction would look like any running vehicle. For one who is painfully aware of the loss of someone during this season their desire is just to have their memories be more of comfort than sorrow.

We keep changing, so what it takes to satisfy us also changes but there is One who never changes and offers us satisfaction.

You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalms 63:5

The people ate their fill. He gave them what they wanted. Psalms 78:29

But I would feed you with the best of foods. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock. Psalms 81:16

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Psalms 90:14

I will satisfy them with a long life and give them my salvation. Psalms 91:16

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's! Psalms 103:5

When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are satisfied. Psalms 104:28

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalms 107:9.

When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing Psalms 145:16

He sends peace across your nation and satisfies you with plenty of the finest wheat Psalms 147:14
No matter what our needs are, or how they change from year to year or moment to moment, we have One who can satisfy our hearts.

Yes, you really can get some satisfaction!

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'll be home for Christmas

I was far from home and grabbed a towel from the rack in the hotel bathroom. It was about as thick as a piece of paper and barely bigger than a hand towel. It was both disappointing and ineffectual for its task.

When I was home I reached for a towel and found it thirsty lushness wrapped around me like a queen sized blanket. It was more than enough; it was extravagant.

Both situations were similar in what I needed but the difference lie in where I was. At home I found all I needed and more – but away from home the result was inadequacy and disappointment.

We’re seeking, and needy, and vulnerable. How are we and where are we while we’re trying to meet those needs? If we are far from home we’re on our own to find happiness, fulfillment, purpose, or love; often we come up short.

But if we are home we have a Father who delights in providing for us (Psalms 37:23) and promises that we’ll have all that we need (Psalms 23:1). When we are home we will flourish and have joy because we are in His presence.(Psalms 92:12-14)

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord; He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust Him.  He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection...If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you. (Psalms 91: 1-3,4,9 NLT)

Be home for Christmas this year. You are most welcome there! (Ephesians 3:12, 14-21)

Friday, December 3, 2010

'Tis the season...

...of warm snuggly blankets, fa la la la la, la la la la!

Baby, it's cold outside!
And, although I'm inside it's still cold!  So 'tis the season so bring out the warm blankets and drape them on every arm of every chair. (Seriously it looks like a giant slumber party is always going on in my living room!)

My favorite is a new one that's microfiber lined with sherpa which makes it soft and super warm. If I could make it into an outfit I'd wear it everywhere! 

But for now I sit in my big blue chair this morning under my warm blanket as I open God's Word to feed my heart and I read, "Unfailing love surrounds those who trust in the Lord." Psalms 32:10 NLT

I feel loved as I sit here all cozy and still; comforted by His care for me as the demands of the day have yet to have me distracted and running. But "unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord" - surrounds - not just covers me when I'm still and reflective but surrounds me, wherever I go, whatever I'm doing, no matter how I feel.

I am as surrounded by the love of God as if I took my blanket with me everywhere I went. No matter how cold it will be outside today, no matter what bitter winds will blow I am protected by the love of God which surrounds me.  His love covers me: it cocoons me.

I guess there is such an outfit of sherpa after all!

Do you have one?
Don't forget to take it with you as you go out today!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

It's become iconic; the scraggly tree with the lone red ornament, as we remember Christmases of our youth from when A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965.

Beyond the nostalgia though is the original meaning, that Christmas is more than commercialism and excess but that it is, as Linus quotes (click for clip) from Luke 2, all about the birth of Jesus.

It is the scrawny tree vs. the forest of colorful aluminum monstrosities and, it is also for us, the devotion to the Savior of a single heart - your heart - against the bedlam of Christmas obligations and expectations.

So when you're shopping this season and see this little tree (which, ironically, true to the season's materialism you can now buy everywhere), let it remind you that the most important thing is your heart seeking the babe in the manager, more than anything and everything else.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We, the walking wounded

It's one of the oldest and most tired jokes...

"Why do you keep banging your head against the wall?"
"Because it feels so good when I stop!"

We are wounded people.

Wounded by life, by circumstances, by family, friends and associates. Some are wounds of the stabbing, twisting life-altering type that leave us in stunned shock. Others are more like a paper cut - not life threatening but that still hurt like the dickens.

Recently I was sucker punched - which, as the name implies, just adds insult to injury as you don't see it coming! But what has impacted me more than the wounding was the resulting assistance and comfort I received from others around me. Because of their care I came away with a new appreciation for their friendship and gratefulness to God for their presence in my life. Would I have had that attitude if I’d not experienced the pain? Probably not.

So are wounds worth the rewards?

I can’t answer that question.
Today, for me, I would say "yes" but I'm not you and for myself I may feel differently tomorrow...

But what I know is that God can use, as he did for Joseph, what is done to us with evil intentions for His own good. (Genesis 50:20).

So while I don’t suggest going and banging your head against a wall, if along the way today you are hurt, hear this invitation. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalms 147:3)


No matter the severity – from breath stopping pain to annoying tiny slices – you have a Great Physician and His appointment book is wide open.

The Doctor will see you now.